Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
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I am very sorry you are dealing with this situation. A first step is to deliver a written request to the caregiver to return the items explaining they must go through probate, he/she had no legal authority to take the items and if the items are not returned he/she could be subject to both criminal and civil liability.
Also, in these situations, a local attorney should be retained to open up a probate, have a personal representative appointed and that personal representative representing the estate with the help of the lawyer should begin to place demands on the caregiver to return the items.
If the property is not returned you may file a police report for stolen property. In addition, if the caregiver is licensed I suggest contacting the licensing board regarding the action of the caregiver. If the caregiver no longer has the items, they need to generate a list of all the items taken as they will owe the estate the value of the items. Whether they want to pay without being sued in civil court or as part of a criminal restitution if the district attorney decides to file charges will be up to them but the fact of the matter is they stole from the estate and the items or cash value needs to be returned to the estate.
Part of the probate will be to determine the value of the items at the time of death regardless of whether the items are in the estate possession or not (as the caregiver may have already sold or pawned the items) and to the extent the items can't be recovered, the caregiver should be liable for the value of the items taken and not returned.
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